I have noticed recently that many of my dreams begin innocently enough and then end in panic, with the need to call for help. Recently, for example, I dreamt that I was shopping with two of my best friends from high school, and, as we would back then, we were teasing the one friend, who was never able to venture out and take risks: always wore the same clothes, kept her hair the same, and had trademark John Lennon glasses. In the midst of this lighthearted excursion there is suddenly an attack: a sword-wielding male who leaves his victim lying in a pool of blood, the weapon protruding from her neck – an emergency situation.
While not all my dreams end in such bloody violence, the pattern of alarm and panic at the end of each episode is undeniable; enough to make me question my relationship to bad endings.
“Your whole family are man-haters,” my former husband once told me. “I feel as if everyone is always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
He had a point. The women in my family are overly cautious of the other sex, for valid reasons – many of us have been let down. Even this husband left me destitute when a much younger model showed him attention.
His words have stayed with me, though – do I live in anticipation of the worst case scenario? If I’m honest with myself, I do. It comes from living with a father whose nature was unstable at best, violence always lurking beneath his carefully controlled exterior: a tyrant who ruled with intimidation. But that was many years ago, and he is long gone, and yet still the fears persist. How do I shake this condition?
Sometimes just by rewriting the dream we can alter our perception of outcomes. In this case, I would finish my outing with my former friends by joining them in a quaint restaurant, sharing a bottle wine and good memories. That is how most of our visits go these days.
And if an intruder struck, I would usher us to a safe place, away from the violence and bloodshed, leaving dramatics to the proper authorities – let go of responsibility. An ‘aha’ moment.
No wonder my dreams end with me having to call 9-1-1. I am always in rescue mode: a shoe-in to take responsibility, cannot tear myself away from pain (mine or others) without feeling somehow obliged to take action. Apparently, according to my dreams, this is interfering with my own life’s progress.
It’s as if I’m addicted to crisis – a pattern I will happily replace if I can just figure out how.
If I write a new dream for myself, it will include confidence in my own acceptability, and allow a belief in the fortitude and capability of loved ones to defend themselves: faith that each of our paths bears lessons worthy of the challenge. I will celebrate and support, rather than rescue those in need – a risky proposition, for a co-dependent – knowing that we all have the right to fight our own battles, and that in taking responsibility for others I am robbing them of that right.
Hopefully this insight will change the patterns of my dreams.